Connection between Mental and Physical Health

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Mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked. People living with a serious mental illness are at higher risk of experiencing a wide range of chronic physical conditions. Conversely, people living with chronic physical health conditions experience depression and anxiety at twice the rate of the general population.
  • Canadians who report symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions as the general population.
  • Canadians with chronic physical conditions have twice the likelihood of also experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder when compared to those without a chronic physical condition.
  • One out of every two Canadians with major depression and a co-existing chronic physical condition report limitations in their day-to-day activities.
Mental illnesses and chronic physical conditions can co-exist, as both mind and body are affected by changes to physiological and emotional processes, as well as by social factors.
People living with chronic physical conditions often experience emotional stress and chronic pain, which are both associated with the development of depression and anxiety. Experiences with disability can also cause distress and isolate people from social supports.
The stigma associated with mental illness also continues to be a barrier to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic physical conditions in people with mental illnesses.  Stigma can directly prevent people from accessing health care services, or can lead to a misdiagnosis of physical ailments as psychologically based. This "diagnostic overshadowing" occurs frequently and can result in serious physical symptoms being either ignored or downplayed.
The mental health of people with chronic physical conditions is also frequently overlooked.  "Diagnostic overshadowing" can mask psychiatric complaints, particularly for the development of mild to moderate mental illnesses.  Mental illnesses and chronic physical conditions share many symptoms, such as fatigue, which can also prevent recognition of co-existing conditions.
(The above information is taken from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario.)
The skilled therapists at the Burnaby Counselling Group understand the link between mind and body, and are able to work therapeutically to address these issues.  (We are also wheelchair accessible.)
The Burnaby Counselling Group is offering a two-day course in Mental Health First Aid. Becoming one of the over 150,000 Mental Health First Aiders in Canada will lead to:
  • Improvements in mental health literacy
  • Reduced stigma and discrimination
  • Earlier detection of declining and poor mental health
  • Promotion of help seeking
To find out more about how you can benefit from Mental Health First Aid, or to register visit us online. If you would like to receive a 10% discount on your enrollment fee, enter promotional code MIAW during Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) when registering.
Submitted by Susan Hobkirk, Registered Social Worker